Church and charitable organisations have an obligation to keep people under their care and/or on their premises as safe as possible, in order to reduce the risk of injury or loss. Worship centres are as vulnerable to liability risks and legal action as any other organisation that provides services to the public.
Failure to manage church liability risks has the potential to result in harm and loss. For example – personal injuries, damage to property, legal action and damages, fines, disruptions, loss of reputation, increased insurance costs or even voiding of insurance. As such it is vital that church and charitable organisations actively participate in their own risk management activities.
It’s also important to be aware that certain activities may be excluded from cover; see the section below under ‘Exclusion activities’ for more information.
Vulnerable areas to consider:
- Unsafe premises – such as damaged steps, unstable furniture, wet floors, obstructions, poor lighting, potholes in outside areas, fallen branches, poor electrical or fire safety, inadequate roof maintenance.
- Food poisoning – see our article on food safety here for more information.
- Volunteers – matters to consider here include proper selection and training of volunteers and providing written instructions and procedures.
- Employee safety – this is not covered by Faith Insurance and individual churches may need to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. See our separate article about this.
- Vicarious liability – where the church is held liable for the actions of its employees.
- Employment practices – such as discrimination, wrongful dismissal, and harassment.
- Sexual misconduct – this can be mitigated by proper screening of personnel, especially those who work with children and young people.
- Events and activities – including child and youth camps or excursions.
- Children’s playground equipment safety.
- Other issues – including social media risks, automobile safety, slander, and invasion of privacy.
Risk reduction / risk management for churches and charities
To reduce your risk level, it’s essential to have a comprehensive risk-management program in place.
Your risk-management program should include the following:
- Identify the hazards which may lead to harm or damage, and eliminate them if possible.
- If a hazard cannot be totally eliminated, you could reduce the risk. This could be done through regular property inspections and maintenance, careful selection of employees and motor vehicle drivers, development of social media policies, ensuring safe food handling practices and so forth.
- Cooperate with your insurance provider. This is because insurance is a two-way street. Insurers want to know you are working to reduce your risks and that you are also not behaving negligently.
Certain high-risk activities are considered to be ‘hazardous pursuits’ and may be excluded from cover under General Liability insurance. These include:
- Motor races, rallies, and speed tests.
- Various outdoor activities. These include canyoning and caving, shooting, hang gliding, parachuting and paragliding, white water rafting and canoeing above Class 2 rapids, scuba diving, bungee jumping, and hot air ballooning.
- Various other risky activities. For example, gladiator games, unsupported rock climbing, go-karts, motor-cross, martial arts, boxing, and mechanical rides (other than ground-based slow-speed rides designed for young children).
Avoid having a claim denied!
In some specific instances, insurance claims may be denied.
In cases of sexual abuse for instance, Faith Insurance will not provide cover for legal liability where the insured knew or ought to have known that the perpetrator had a history of offending.
You also risk having a claim denied if you have not kept up roof maintenance on your buildings. See our separate article here on roof maintenance.
It’s also crucial to keep up with your ‘essential safety measures’ (as defined by Buidling Codes Australia) to reduce your risk of propery fire. More information on essential safety measures for churches and faith centres is available from our previous post.
Our website also contains a number of other articles on property risk management, workplace health and safety, and people protection which can be accessed from here.
For more information on church liability risks, risk management or our tailored insurance services contact your FI Rep. You can also started with our online form for non-profit and church insurance quotes here.
Written by Tess Oliver
Tags: insurance, liability, risk management